ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Madhubuti launched the Third World Press in the basement of his
South Ada Street apartment in Chicago with seed money of $400
Photo left: Troy Johnson of aalbc.com
Books by Haki Madhubuti
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Poet, Essayist, Publisher
Haki R. Madhubuti, a major poet, essayist, editor and publisher throughout the Black Arts Movement, was born Don Luther Lee, February. 23, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Madhubuti was raised in Detroit with his mother until the age of sixteen when she died from a drug overdose. Madhubuti claims that his mother, Maxine, is the prime force behind his creativity and interest in the Black Arts. His own family has had more stability; he has been married since 1974 to Safisha, a professor at Northwestern University. Together they have three children: Lani, Bomani, and Akili. He is also the father of two children, Don and Mari, from two previous unions.
After his mother’s death, Madhubuti finished high school and joined the Army (1960-63) and his experiences there cemented his interest and commitment in the Black Arts.
Madhubuti’s formal education includes a high school diploma received in 1960 from Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago. He earned his A.A. degree from Chicago City College and later an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. During his lifetime, he has received various awards, including the National Endowment Grant for Poetry (1983), Distinguished Writers Award from Middle Atlantic Writers Association (1984), and the American Book Award (1991). He was named author of the year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English, and he was the only poet chosen to represent the United States at the International Valmiki World Poetry Festival in New Delhi, India, in 1985.
Madhubuti participated in the political aspects of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) by working as a “foot soldier” for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Community (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In addition to working for political organizations, Madhubuti invested time in writing political essays, hoping to wake the eyes of the public to the events and attitudes of the world around them. His most notorious political collection of essays is entitled Enemies: The Clash of Races.
Madhubuti’s development as a man of letters can be traced back to the influence of his mother who, despite the precariousness of their existence, exposed him early to the wonders of the library in which he found works by black authors. He notes in Black Men: Obsolete, Single, and Dangerous? that once his mother introduced him to the marvels of the Detroit Public Library, he was seldom without a book. From this introductory period, made particularly significant by his reading of Richard Wright’s Black Boy, until his graduation from high school, he read other black writers including Chester Himes, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington.
Although his initiation into the armed services was marred by a vicious reaction by his commanding officer to Madhubuti’s reading of Paul Robeson’s Here I Stand, his stint in the army also became a period of intense self-education in African American literature. He left the army in 1963, acquainted with the work of Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, and W. E. B. Du Bois. According to Madhubuti in “A Personal Journey,” the library became a place where he found “new friends, uncritical friends. … Reading became as important as water and food.”
Following his discharge from the army, he became an apprentice and curator at DuSable Museum of African History (1963–67), another significant step in his development; there he was under apprenticeship to Margaret Burroughs, an authority on black history and culture. During this period, he also enrolled in Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College). Meanwhile, he was preparing himself for the disciplined life of the writer; from 1961 to 1966, he followed a strict regimen of reading a book a day and writing a book review of approximately 200 words. These activities were conducted while he held various jobs to sustain himself, including a few for the retail giants of Chicago–Speigel and Montgomery Wards, as well as a job in the post office.
First Poetical Expressions
Madhubuti’s first volume of poetry appeared in 1966 with the publication of Think Black. Although he had not yet changed his name from Don L. Lee, the poems in this slim volume signaled the direction that this future prolific poet and essayist would take. Announcing himself to the world, the speaker of this volume reveals to the reader the year in which he was “born into slavery,” thus indicating the political turn that much of the poetry would take. In this volume, which was originally self-published and self distributed, he defines himself unquestioningly as a black poet. He castigates America not only for its enslavement of black people, but also for its forced internment of the Japanese during World War II.
One of the most frequently anthologized pieces from the book, “Back Again, Home” speaks to a sense of awareness and rebirth, a call to revolutionize one’s thinking as Lee’s persona realizes the fallacy of his own enslavement to the materialistic dream of upward mobility, an enslavement that resulted in his loss of self. This message remains a constant in Madhubuti’s work. From the beginning, he has challenged values that are destructive of the individual and the culture and has called for the rejection of those values. The volume also reveals another dimension to Madhubuti’s voice that expresses itself in a softer and more intimate poem such as “A Poem for Black Hearts.”
In 1967, along with Johari Amini (Jewel Latimore), and Carolyn Rodgers, Madhubuti launched the Third World Press in the basement of his South Ada Street apartment in Chicago with seed money of $400. The Third World Press has the distinction of being the longest continuously operating African American press in America. Its inauguration signalled what is a distinctive element in Madhubuti’s life as a man of letters–his role as an institution builder, particularly institutions which perpetuate the word and the world of ideas. This institution and others that were to follow became concrete representations of his political and philosophical positions, which stress self-reliance individually and culturally; e.g., building institutions within the community that supports the values of that community. He has noted the hypocrisy of criticizing the institutions of America while remaining dependent upon some of those institutions to convey his beliefs to the public.
As the 1960s ended, Madhubuti published two additional volumes of poetry: Black Pride (1968) and Don’t Cry, Scream (1969). In addition, he started the Institute of Positive Education, a school offering two- to- eight-year-olds an Afrocentric education (1969). He also participated in the first Pan-African Festival in Algiers and became writer-in-residence at Cornell University.
The Influence of the 1970s & Beyond
The beginning of the 1970s saw the publication of We Walk the Way of the New World (1970), a collection of poems that continues and expands the themes from his earlier works. While a poem like, “Back Again, Home” speaks directly to rebirth on an individual level primarily, the title poem from this new volume speaks to a rebirth on the collective level. Referring to the black man’s sojourn in America as the “dangercourse,” the speaker notes the transformations that have occurred as the community marches toward nationhood. According to this poem, it has been a journey marked by elements of self-hatred, and enslavement to empty capitalistic values.
As the layers are stripped away, the speaker’s vision is one of black people having run the “dangercourse” emerging as “owners of the New World / the New World” (a world cleansed/transformed by a new people who no longer are corrupted by or corrupt the land/world). The vision articulated in this poem indicates the driving force behind Madhubuti’s roles as poet, essayist, and institution builder–to keep before his audience those values that lead to renewal and survival. Continuing the trend in his previous volumes, We Walk the Way of the New World also contains poems that reveal a more intimate side. Such poems are included in the section entitled “Blackwoman Poems.”
The decade of the 1970s also saw the publication in 1971 of Directionscore: Selected and New Poems as well as To Gwen with Love, a book he edited with Frances Ward and Patricia Brown. Of major importance was the publication of Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s , also in 1971. It was a volume that provided a critical context for the writers of the Black Arts movement by one of the participants of the movement. Published by Broadside Press, the work allowed Madhubuti to articulate his definition of the black literary critic’s role. While maintaining that the black critic must not be narrow in focus, Madhubuti clearly indicates that it is the black critic’s role to reflect his or her grounding in the black experience that will enable the critic to develop standards of evaluation related to that experience. It was in 1972 that Madhubuti also started the Black Books Bulletin.
In 1973 Madhubuti decided to change his name from Don L. Lee to Haki Madhubuti, a name that means “justice,” “awakening,” and “strong” in Swahili. It was the year in which he became poet-in-residence at Howard University and during which Book of Life was published by Broadside Press. The introduction of Book of Life reveals a certain disillusionment on the part of the poet. He also uses the opportunity in this volume to admonish his audience to become independent and to understand the connection between the development of the black woman to her full potential and the development of the black nation to its full potential.
In 1973 From Plan to Planet also appeared. Published jointly by Broadside Press and the Institute of Positive Education, the book had as its motivation the spiritual building of African minds. Therefore, seeking to transform and enhance the spiritual state of his audience, Madhubuti includes ruminations on such topics as self-hatred, money, power, sex, and drug addiction. The decade ended with the publication of Enemies: The Clash of Races (1978) and the launching of the African American Book Center.
The decade of the 1980s saw a continuation of Madhubuti’s role as poet and the expansion of his role as critic. He wrote Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks (1984) and Killing Memory, Seeking Ancestors (1987). Third World Press spearheaded the African American Publishers Booksellers and Writers Association in 1989. In speaking of Africa, Madhubuti noted in the prologue to Killing Memory that the “land of sun has a special meaning” for him, although he was “not prepared for the land that gave birth to civilization.”
The prologue further indicates that Madhubuti’s goal has been to move culturally from “negro to Black to African,” a trip on which he as poet-seer-teacher seeks to guide others. Hence, the poem reflecting the second half of the title becomes another expression of the poet’s role.
“Seeking Ancestors,” a poem written for the First Annual Egyptian Studies Conference in Los Angeles in February 1984, is divided into five parts focusing first on the “death traps” in American culture, juxtaposed with a rumination on the first people to use the triangle and cultivate the earth.
There is a call for the storytellers to recall the memory of those people in order to call us to our better selves. Throughout Madhubuti’s poetical career, he has sought to recall genius to the community, for there are poems devoted not only to Gwendolyn Brooks, but also to Hoyt Fuller, Malcolm X, and the nameless others in the community whose lives exemplify survival under difficult circumstances. His role as the “renamer,” the “recaller of tradition,” can also be seen in the style of much of his poetry which captures the rhythms of talk, accompanied by performance. Expanding his role as educator, Madhubuti began teaching at Chicago State during this decade (1984). He is currently professor of English there. That same year, he, an environmental engineer, and a lawyer founded the National Black Holistic Retreat of which he is director.
While Madhubuti has continued to write poetry in the 1990s, he has also enhanced his role as essayist. In 1990 he published Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: African American Families in Transition: Essays in Discovery, Solution and Hope, a book that addresses the issues that continue to threaten the survival of black men in America, along with advice on the solution to these issues. In 1991 Madhubuti’s Third World Press was successful in adding Gwendolyn Brooks to its list of major authors. Responding to the upheaval caused by the Rodney King case in Los Angeles and to the ensuing unrest, Madhubuti edited Why L.A. Happened: Implications of the `92 Los Angeles Rebellion in 1993.
This was followed by Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption: Blacks Seeking a Culture of Enlightened Empowerment (1994), a book that the author has described as a work about the development of one’s own resources. Madhubuti’s significance can be shown by a statement from this volume in which he declares that there is no separation between “my cultural self and my political, professional, business, familial, and writer selves.” In his life and career, he has exemplified the individual’s attempt to create a unified self and to live a holistic life, one not broken down into segments or fragments of person, poet, teacher, and entrepreneur, a life in which the self is imbued with the cultural values informed by the black experience.
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He attended the University of Illinois and received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He is the author of more than twenty books including Heart Love: Wedding & Love Poems (Third World Press,1998), Groundwork Selected Poems of Haki R. Madhubuti Don L. Lee (1996), Killing Memory, Seeking Ancestors (1987), Earthquakes and Sunrise Missions: Poetry and Essays of Black Renewal, 1973- 1983 (1984), Book of Life (1973), and Directionscore: Selected and New Poems (1971).
His prose works include Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption (1995), Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? (1990), Enemies: The Clash of Races (1978), and Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s (1971). He is the editor most recently of Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology (1996). Mudhubuti is the founder and editor of Third World Press and Black Books Bulletin, and he directs the Institute of Positive Education. Among his honors and awards are an American Book Award (1991) and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is currently a professor of English and Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University.
Andrews, William, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds. The Oxford Companion to African American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Contemporary Authors. Vol. 73–76. Detroit: Gale Research, 1978.
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 73. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.
Madhubuti, Haki. Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? Chicago: Third World Press, 1990.
–. “Gwendolyn Brooks.” In Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945. Edited by Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995.
–. Killing Memory, Seeking Ancestors. Detroit: Lotus Press, 1987.
–. “A Personal Journey: Race, Rage, and Intellectual Development.” In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers: A Black Family Treasury by Outstanding Authors and Artists. Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson. East Orange, NJ: Just Us Books, 1997.
— (Don L. Lee). Think Black. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969.
— (Don L. Lee). We Walk the Way of the New World. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970.
- Oliver, Stephanie Stokes. “Liberated Love.” Essence 22 (July 1991): 93–107.
- “Preaching the Power of the Printing Press.” Chicago Tribune, January 31, 1992.
posted 4 October 2007
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Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Founder & President Third World Press 7822 South Dobson Avenue Chicago, IL 60619Dear Haki:
I so vividly recall meeting you, albeit briefly, at John O. Killens 1967 Black Writers Conference at Fisk University. I was part of a cadre of students, from the English Department, who assisted with various tasks related to the conference. Watching you and Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) call out Ms. Brooks was a jarring moment and at that time I couldnt quite figure out what hair had to do with it. Within months of that conference, I came to learn that hair had everything to do with it, our history and who we are.
The roots that you, Johari Amini (Jewel C. Latimore) and Carolyn Rodgers planted have grown mightily like Banyan trees, under whose branches, multiple generations have learned about as well as taught black life, history and culture. I am tickled black that you have remained the leading literary institution of record, publishing the bold and brilliant voices of black poets, philosophers and academics across the country and around the world. Im also thrilled that in 1996 Third World Press opted to reprint the 1970 Drum & Spear classic Children of Africa by Courtland Cox, Jennifer K. Lawson and me, and illustrated by Jennifer K. Lawson.
As part of the staff at Drum and Spear Bookstore and Press, it was thrilling to sell and host readings by you and your authors, while playing an integral role in bringing the works of Gwendolyn Brooks, Carolyn Rodgers, Willie Kgositsile, and scores of other authors to the thousands of people for whom Drum and Spear was a destination.
My daughter, grandchildren and students all have multiple volumes of works published by TWP in their libraries.
And, your publications now reside in some of the most prestigious public, private, and academic libraries in the world. You, and your staff, have strategically built a fine institution that I hope will continue to play an invaluable role in the education, intellectual experiences and consciousness raising of people from around the world. I delighted to join a host of others who are coming together to celebrate, honor and pay tribute to your vision, tenacity and intellect, as you move into another revolutionary chapter of your life.
Daphne Muse, Founder & Chief Visionary Officer Grandmothers Going Global Harnessing our social capital, leadership and creative vision worldwide
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Drum and Spear Bookstore Site
1371 Fairmont Street, NW – marked with a plaque
The Drum and Spear Bookstore was founded in 1968 by Charlie Cobb, a former secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It developed out of the civil rights/black power movement in Washington, DC. Its organizers set out to create a local as well as national and international resource for reliable information about the African American and African world, aimed at people of African descent, wherever they lived. Drum and Spear specialized in books written by black authors and books on Asian, African, and African American subjects. It quickly developed into a combination bookstore, library, community center, and literary haven, according to Professor Daphne Muse of Mills College. Muse noted, It wasn’t uncommon to see Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka browsing the shelves alongside diplomats and regular folk. According to early board member Jennifer Lawson, the store opened at a time just before black studies took root in U.S. colleges and universities, when only a handful of Afro-centric bookstores operated in this country.
The founders took the name Afro-American Resources, Inc., and operated Drum and Spear Bookstore, Drum and Spear Press, and the Center for Black Education. The center held classes for community youth and sponsored educational forums and speakers. Afro-American Resources, Inc., originally consisted of Cobb, Anthony Gittens, Don Freeman, Courtland Cox, Ivanhoe Donaldson, and Marvin Holloway. The bookstore and press closed, said Lawson, because all of its managers were artists and activists and not business people. We had created the activities for the social good, not for business purposes.
The Drum and Spear operated from 1371 Fairmont Street, NW, until 1974. Cultural Tourism DC
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Kiini Ibura Salaam
Ancient, Ancient collects the short fiction by Kiini Ibura Salaam, of which acclaimed author and critic Nalo Hopkinson writes, ”Salaam treats words like the seductive weapons they are. She wields them to weave fierce, gorgeous stories that stroke your sensibilities, challenge your preconceptions, and leave you breathless with their beauty.” Indeed, Ms. Salaam’s stories are so permeated with sensuality that in her introduction to
, Nisi Shawl, author of the award-winning Filter House, writes, ”Sexuality-cum-sensuality is the experiential link between mind and matter, the vivid and eternal refutation of the alleged dichotomy between them. This understanding is the foundation of my 2004 pronouncement on the burgeoning sexuality implicit in sf’s Afro-diasporization. It is the core of many African-based philosophies. And it is the throbbing, glistening heart of Kiini’s body of work. This book is alive. Be not afraid.”
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By John D’Emilio
Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D’Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin’s intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.
It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression. A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal.
His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, “You were capable of making the ‘mistake’ of thinking that you could be the leader in a revolution . . . at the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification.”
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.
“Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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By Isabel Wilkerson
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest.
Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.
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By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection’s “lyric brilliance” and “political impulses [that] never falter.” A New York Times review stated, “Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we’re alone in the universe; it’s to acceptor at least endurethe universe’s mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the books first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.” Life on Mars follows Smith’s 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet’s second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
The Bodys Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
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By Eric Liu and Nick Hanaper
American democracy is informed by the 18th centurys most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. Weve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economicsthe cutting-edge ideas of todaygenerate these simple but revolutionary ideas: The economy is not an efficient machine.
Its an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest. Were all better off when were all better off. The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 5 March 2009